How Do Past Convictions Impact My Case?
It is not unusual for people arrested and charged with a crime to wonder how much of an impact their criminal history will have on their impending case. Whether or not a person’s criminal past is allowed to be used as evidence in a trial depends on a number of things. One of the most significant factors in determining whether or not a criminal history will be used as evidence in a new case is the crime the defendant is charged with.
For example, in a driving under the influence case, a judge may be required by law to use a past conviction of the same crime to enhance a sentence. If a person is charged with a second or third DUI and has convictions for the same crime on their record, the sentence for the new crime may be steeper.
In other cases, criminal history may be allowed into evidence depending on whether or not the defendant in the new case had testified in a prior case, or if there is legal grounds for the past conviction to be admitted. These rules for admittance vary from state to state. Following the trial, a judge may use a person’s criminal record as a factor in sentencing. A judge’s use of past convictions in this manner does not equate the convictions being admitted as evidence. The judge has the power and discretion to utilize a criminal record in this manner without impacting the legalities of the trial.
One of the simplest ways for a person’s criminal history to come into play in a courtroom is by that person’s own testimony. For this reason, an experienced defense attorney may advise their client that it is in their best interest to not testify on their own behalf. In many instances, a prosecutor will attempt to use a defendant’s criminal history to impeach their credibility. In most cases, for this to work as desired, the past conviction must have been a felony or some type of crime that involved dishonesty.
Even when a defendant chooses to testify and the prosecution attempts to use prior convictions as evidence to the defendant’s character, it is possible for a defense attorney to have the evidence suppressed. It should not be assumed that one’s criminal history will harm a current case or, to the contrary, that it will not. This is why it is important to hire an experienced criminal defense attorney when facing any new charges.
If you have been arrested and charged with a crime in Atlanta, reach out to Hawkins Spizman Fortas. We can review your current charges at no cost to you, and we can also review your criminal record to predict its impact on your current situation. We know the rules regarding criminal histories and trials, and we can put our knowledge to work for you. Call today to schedule your consultation.